Do you ever have those books you just have to get because of the title or the cover? Well, for me, that is The History Major by Michael Philip Cash. I was actually a history major in college, so, even though I don’t usually pick up thrillers, I had to give it a shot.
After getting in a fight with her boyfriend, Amanda Greene goes out for a night of epic partying. The next morning, she wakes up to find that her dorm room is not the same as it was the day before. Her “normal” roommate, Tanya, has been replaced by little miss sunshine, and the other side of the room is unnaturally tidy. Then she discovers that she’s registered for classes she never would have taken (and for which she is already late). As she rushes to her mysterious history class, she feels an ominous shadow following her. Everyone she meets is oddly familiar, though she can’t remember any of their names or where she’s seen them. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, uncomfortable memories from Amanda’s childhood keep bubbling to the surface, prompting her to attempt to find out what the hell is going on.
Like I said, I picked up The History Major based solely on the title. I guess I didn’t read the synopsis too carefully, because I was expecting some sort of college campus mystery. What I got was just bizarre. Interspersed with Amanda’s memories and current predicament are recollections from the point of view of Lucrezia Borgia, Joan of Arc, and Eva Braun (or more accurately, how Amanda sees their memories from inside their heads – she is almost as confused as I was). And I was confused. I actually made an effort to take notes while I was reading, and over half of them are just questions (including one “WTF is happening?”). At one point, I wrote “magic-horror Truman Show,” because everyone seemed freakishly focused on Amanda. It wasn’t until the author’s note at the end that I kind of got what was happening. And, really, your understanding of a work of fiction should not be predicted on the author’s explanation after the fact. Right?
I really wanted to like The History Major, but it just wasn’t for me. I understood the point – after I’d read the author’s note – but I didn’t enjoy it. The mystery was more annoyingly confusing than suspenseful; I almost didn’t care what was going on so much as I just wanted it to make sense. I also noticed a few continuity errors (for example, the main character has blue eyes, and then ten pages later, her eyes are green). I didn’t really care for the relationships, which were either tenuously based on Amanda’s bizarre memories, or a weird sort of insta-love that reminded me unpleasantly of Edward and Bella’s first meeting in Twilight. And, honestly, I didn’t like Amanda. She is definitely not what I’d call a strong character, and, in an unusual situation, she lets herself be guided solely by emotions (who picks up a hat on the sidewalk and immediately rubs it on their face because it smells like their grandmother?). Overall, I thought it was a good concept, but I wasn’t impressed by the execution.
If you’ve read The History Major, or any other books by Michael Philip Cash, I would love to hear your thoughts!
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.